Complex Hand Injuries

Injuries to the hand and wrist are some of the most common types of injuries that occur, especially in athletes. The hands are a particularly common site for injury because they are so often in use. Complex hand injuries may result from a fall, an accident, a twisting injury, a crush injury, or direct contact in sports. Complex hand injuries may include joint dislocations, sprains, muscle strains, bone fractures, inflamed tendons, and torn ligaments.

Although they vary depending on the specific type of injury, symptoms of a complex hand injury may include pain and bruising as well as:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Numbness
  • Hand deformity
  • Inability to move the hand or wrist

To diagnose the specific type of injury, a doctor examines the hand and may perform range of motion tests to assess any loss of feeling and nerve damage. X-rays and CT scans may be performed to determine if any bones have been broken, and if so, the severity of a fracture. Treatment depends on the type, location and severity of the injury. Conservative treatment often includes anti-inflammatory medication for pain as well as rest, ice, compression and elevation, to relieve swelling and stiffness. Additional treatments may include taping, splinting, braces or casts.

Severe hand injuries, such as comminuted or compound fractures, may require surgery to stabilize and align broken bones to promote healing. Comminuted fractures occur when bones are broken in more than one place. Compound fractures are fractures in which the broken bone has broken through the skin. Wires, screws, or plates may be surgically inserted in the broken bone to hold the pieces of a fractured bone in place. Arthroscopic surgery may also be performed to repair or reattach a tendon. After most forms of treatment for complex hand injuries, physical therapy is usually recommended to regain strength, flexibility and range of motion.